Over the last four years, Sam Macaroni has pumped out over two hundred movies on YouTube. Before that, he was carving up Hollywood as an actor and a director. Last year, someone placed an Oculus Rift DK2 on his head, showed him Epic’s Unreal Showdown, and it changed his life forever.
Being an actor/director with a new-found obsession with VR can be a powerful combination. After forming a relationship with 360 video creators Jaunt, Macaroni ventured into the 360 video space and produced such titles as, A Violent Afternoon and Wookie on Vacation.
“I was drawn to 360 film making because the first time I saw it in a DK2 it affected me like nothing I’ve ever seen,” says Macaroni, “I make films to move people and this technology allows me to control everything someone sees. Ha… The audience is now deep in the middle of my mind!”.
His latest film was recorded using Jaunt’s 360 cameras, is called Junkbots, and it releases today. Junkbots is an epic tale of giant robots that have taken over the city and unless they are stopped, could take over the world.
The challenge of shooting a film like Junkbots, says Macaroni, is moving the camera through space without seeing the gear, or the crew. He wanted to go beyond the traditional “captured person POV” and take 360 cinematics to the next level.
The system he developed (see it in action in the above video) uses a 24-foot dolly on a motion control rig. He captures the right hemisphere of the spherical video first, with the camera leaning toward the right. Then, the camera is backed up, and leaned to the left, and captures the left hemisphere. These two hemispheres are then stitched together, and the dolly erased. This allows a crew to exist for the entire shot, behind the range of the current camera view.
“The rig was designed by me on the back of a post-it one night when I was trying to fall asleep, and came up with the concept.” says Macaroni, “I didn’t know if it would work and we actually had to build two prototypes before we got it right.” Once the idea was finalised, it had to be built. “I hired my friend to weld the camera support rigs. I already owned the Kessler motion controlled dolly. The problem I kept having when shooting the two passes was that, even though I could get the 2nd camera in the exact same line as the 1st, I couldn’t get it in the exact same spatial position because of small imperfections in the concrete when I changed support rigs. That’s when we devised an absurd string system to mark the exact position and height of the 1st camera in the air.”
After all that effort, did the completed project meet Macaroni’s expectations? “I’m really happy with the end result,” he says, “and now that I know it can be done, in the future I can use the same trick to hide lights in a scene by staging them on different hemispheres over two passes.”
After perfecting his idea and finishing his first 360 film using it, Macaroni is already throwing himself into another project. With Junkbots now complete and released, he plans on releasing another 360 title, called A Violent Morning. After that, he’ll return to shoot the Junkbots sequel which will star none other than Billy Zane. After that, realtime VR gaming beckons with future projects on the horizon collaborating with Epic Games.